December Staff Picks: Historical Cooking, Cartoons, and Fantasy Fiction!

Carolyn Janecek

These winter holidays it feels particularly hard to lift one’s spirits during a global pandemic while the sun continues setting sooner each evening in the Northern Hemisphere. My primary source of serotonin has become the delightful Cartoon Network series called Summer Camp Island. It follows two best friends, Oscar and Hedgehog, who quickly realize they won’t be attending a normal summer camp off the shore of New Jersey—they’ve arrived at a magical one. The camp counselors are teen witches, pajamas can talk, monsters write dissertations, and the time-space continuum is very unstable. The ten-minute episodes follow low-stakes scenarios that still deliver satisfying character development throughout each season. There’s a tender gentleness to the show, focusing on friendship, overcoming bullying, controlling parents, and the anxieties of leaving home for the first time.

Evan Sheldon

This month I read Yōko Ogawa’s Revenge. It has eleven interlinked short stories, all dark and all strange. The different connections between these seemingly unrelated events are also odd—a roomful of kiwis, a pouch made to hold a functioning human heart, carrots growing in the shape of human hands. It is an interesting book, part of what propels you onward is wondering what tidbit will appear in the next story, what oddity will impact another character, and looking forward to discovering the different lines in this web. Individually, the stories are eerie and will linger in your mind, but taken together they become something more, maybe a comment of how little we see, how what we do impacts people we will never know. It’s definitely worth a read and probably a reread or two, particularly if you are intrigued by someone purchasing a strawberry shortcake for a child who has died years earlier.

Suzie Bartholomew

I’ve always been a huge fan of history. Give me a good documentary on anything before the Titanic and I’m happy. I’m also a fan of cooking shows. So imagine my delight when I discovered Tasting History with Max Miller on YouTube, where history and cooking get thrown together. Miller’s YouTube channel focuses on recreating historical recipes. He doesn’t just go through the recipe; he goes through the history of the dish itself. From Ancient Rome’s Garum to an early version of Pumpkin Pie from 1670 to bread from Pompeii, this guy makes food that not only intrigues my historical side but makes me want to get in my kitchen and cook.

Max Miller

Thomas Chisholm

I finally watched Game of Thrones last month. I already knew about the books at the time of the series announcement, but told myself I’d wait until they were all published to start reading. I resolved to watch the show after I read the books. I realized A Song of Ice and Fire will probably never see completion around the time season three or four of Game of Thrones aired. I also have no self-control when it comes to binging shows; I end up watching TV for the better part of a month, which makes me depressed. So I just never got around to Game of Thrones. Until I wiped out on my bicycle, underwent shoulder surgery, and then spent two bed-ridden weeks in a painkiller haze. It was kind of the perfect thing to take my mind off of everything. It did a great job of keeping me glued to my bed too. But wow, what an awful ending. It really makes it hard to go back and want to re-watch old episodes when you know it all adds up to this giant pile of shit. I also recommend Lindsay Ellis’s two Game of Thrones hot-take videos too.

Game of Thrones rekindled my love for the fantasy genre though. I recently watched Legend (directors cut) for the first time, which seems like a misunderstood gem. I’m re-watching The Lord of the Rings (extended edition, duh) right now. I’ve had the extended editions for years, but am just now watching all the making-of documentaries and they are just so wonderful. I’m really glad it took me this long to get to them, it’s almost like watching the movies for the first time all over again. I’ve also started reading The Mists of Avalon, which is a real treat. I can’t believe I slept on it this long!